One of my distinct recollections from childhood -- all of the butterflies seen during summer. Despite my admiration for them -- the truth is that I didn't pay that much attention to the many varieties of butterflies that visited my neighborhood.

I hadn't given butterflies much thought recently until a few days ago when I saw a dead monarch butterfly (the orange ones with black stripes) in a flower bed near my driveway. The sight made me wonder -- where have all the butterflies gone?

It turns out that monarchs are indeed having problems surviving. And as is often the case, we humans are largely to blame.

It turns out that monarch larvae only feed on milkweed plants, which wouldn't be too much of a problem except for that fact that people don't generally like these plants. Milkweed plants have been killed through the use of herbicides and possibly due to climate changes that increase ground level ozone.

Since the larvae have such a restricted diet, the reduction in the availability of this vegetation may affect the monarch population.

Fortunately, grown butterflies do not have the same restrictive diet as do the larvae; however, their habitats are also under attack. For example, monarchs thrive in wildflower fields --slowly disappearing due to urban sprawl and pesticide use. Pesticides used to kill other animals can sometimes harm more than just the targeted pest. They are also falling victim to foresting operations and genetically engineered plants!

What can you do to help?

Considering planting "butterfly gardens" in your yard. A few simple plants can attract, feed, and home butterflies in your region. To find out what plants and butterflies work best, visit this simple site, or consider contacting your county extension agent, local gardening societies, and county conservation units.

Other sites which could be of help:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Butterflyhouse.org
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